22 Apr 2010

Election Blues

Whilst we watch on in fascination, all wondering what living with a hung parliament will be like, this election is remarkable for how underwhelming the various manifestos actually are. The arguments go round and round but somehow none of the really big issues facing us gets a look in.

None more so than man-made climate change, of course. No hint of any new carbon taxes, let alone anything like personal carbon rationing. But with more than half the electorate now disbelieving the evidence that global warming is even happening, what hope is there for democracy as a credible system of government?

Yes, it would involve new taxes. Yes, it would stifle economic growth. Yes, it would tend to make us uncompetitive with countries where no action gets taken. But then so do many other things that we already provide, and other countries don’t. I’m talking pensions, and benefits and free health care, and free(ish) education.

• Why do we continue to support old people long past their sell-by date? They contribute nothing to the national wealth, so why not let them fend for themselves? Winter fuel allowance? Humbug.

• Why pay money to anyone just because they are not earning? Have we gone completely soft in the head? I’m bloody sure they don’t do that in China.

• Why have a national health service at all? Don’t we all know we are going to die sooner or later, and the sooner we get on with it, the more competitive as a nation we will become.

• Why spend billions teaching kids useless stuff like history and Shakespeare? Get ‘em to read and write and then let ‘em get on with it. Universities? Who needs them!

Now all this really would be a trip back into the early 19th century for us — as I am sure one or two Anonymouses will point out — but I can’t be alone in thinking that that’s exactly where we will be heading if we don’t get to grip with our compulsive carbon addiction. All our wealth and so-called sophistication is rooted in burning fossil-fuels, and it’s going to have to end remarkably soon, but nowhere will you find any discussion of this in the various manifestoes. We are facing the biggest challenge to our way of life since Hitler and the Fascists around Europe threatened invasion, but you just wouldn’t know it from this election. Can you imagine an election being held in 1938 and no one mentioning Hitler? That’s what it’s like.

Even the Green Party manifesto is peculiarly light on this topic – no mention any form of carbon rationing, just a bit of tinkering about with what is there.


  1. It's a difficult case to make, to put something in your manifesto that the electorate have 'gone off'.

    After too much hype and poor journalism, man made climate change (MMCC) is a tough sell, so there are few politicians who want to tie their flags to that mast.

    Those that care need to rebuild the case for MMCC from the ground up, and move beyond 'just talk' measures such as punitive taxation to constructive solutions. The electorate needs to care about the problem and believe in the solution - neither of which they do right now.

    As it is, the main parties know that in post-election Britain we've got a lot of hidden issues to face up to. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. In that climate, you need everyone to believe in the cause before you can convince them to make additional sacrifices.

  2. I'm not sure you've read the Green Party manifesto right.

    On page 35 it clearly states "In the longer run, introduce carbon quotas" and has a boxout on page 37 that explains in simple terms how the rationing system would work.

    It also sets a national carbon budget with 10% annual reduction targets, increases the fuel duty escalator substantially and outlines a package of measures totalling £40bn of investment to tackle the green grid problem and refurbish our existing stock.

    You might also like this proposal in the housing section: "Support self-build social co-operatives."

    (disclaimer: I am a Green Party candidate)

  3. Tom (et al),

    I owe you an apology. The manifesto highlights it quite clearly. I was looking under the taxation section where I expected to find it.

    You just about get my vote because of it, though I am deeply worried by your parties refusal to engage with nuclear power, which I think is looking more and more unrealistic as the threat of fuel shortages looms ever nearer. I don't particularly like nuclear power, but I can't see where else we are going to get our juice from.

  4. stick to housebuilding issues, it's what people come here to read.

    I really can't stand reading such political ignorance.

  5. A rather charming comment 'Anonymous'. It might be better mannered to at least put your name to your to such comments in the future.

  6. AnonymousMay 06, 2010

    To continue the temporary diversion from housing I can't see why it makes any sense to build nuclear plants when a similar sum (£30-50 billion for ten of them) would fund tidal lagoons and/or would more than suffice to fund a massive program to install energy efficiency measures (such as efficient office lighting systems which consume far more electricity than domestic lighting).

    California has had this on and off for decades. Ten US states are trying to do least-cost planning. The UK looks the other way.

    After 55 years, the nuclear industry still expects the general public to take the risk of an accident which would make England or Scotland uninhabitable for decades. Read the reports from the US and Sweden - the only countries ever to have had the decency to publish uncensored reactor safety studies. (That's what I call open govt.)

    Now, can we get back to housing, please? Since nuclear plants can't be turned on and off to meet demand, they're utterly irrelevant except for running the fridge and the freezer and other appliances left on day and night, summer and winter.